Table of Contents
What are compounds?
Three perspectives: structural, sociopragmatic, cognitive
Typical versus non-typical compounds
Development of Complex Lexemes
Kate´s Law, Bad Hombres
Bibliography (sometimes with acronyms in brackets)
Which are the first three terms, words, or combination of words you associate with the 2016 US election campaign?
Students from Heidelberg (H)
Other people (O) (asked via WhatsApp, private chat, for reasons elaborated on above)
Students from Durham (D)
“Fake News” as defined from the right by Andrew Klavan
Fake news, Kate´s Law, Bad Hombres – Donald Trump often took two simple words everyone knows, combined and tweeted them to create political earthquakes. Despite “the Donald´s” opponents frequently sneering at the reality star´s teenage vocabulary, they failed to grasp the impact of his newly crafted words, and especially, of his compounds. To a greater extent than any other candidate, the former real estate mogul coined new compounds to convey his political agenda. For instance, the enormous popularity of “fake news” discredited the supposedly biased mainstream media so effectively that Donald Trump became virtually immune to bad press. Hence, I will explore in this essay how clever campaign compounds decided the 2016 US presidential race.
The paper is split in an introduction to compounding and a review of the most important compounds of the 2016 US presidential race. The introduction starts by giving an overview over the structural, sociopragmatic and cognitive perspective on compounding. A closer look at the semantic structure of compounds and an evaluation on typical compounds follows. The introduction to compounding closes with a general explanation on the creation, consolidation and establishment of complex lexemes. The section Campaign Compounds covers some of the most important compounds of the presidential race: Nicknames, Kate´s Law, Bad Hombres, Two Corinthians and the crowning jewel of them all, Fake News.
Since established databanks, namely the Oxford English Dictionary online, the MLA International Bibliography, the Bibliography and the American National Biography online, had little to no hits on those entries, I relied heavily on newspaper articles published online in order to get some idea of the current spread of compounds, and I also conducted a small survey amongst students from Heidelberg and Durham. The entire survey is attached in the appendix, but the most important stats are: asked for the first three words associated with the 2016 US election campaign, 26,6% mentioned at least one compound. “Fake news” led with 20% followed by “Crooked Hillary” with 10%. In general, those numbers were significantly higher for students from Heidelberg.
What are compounds?
Three perspectives: structural, sociopragmatic, cognitive
As Hans-Jörg Schmid outlines in his introduction to “English morphology and word-formation” (2016), there are three schools of defining compounds: the structural perspective, the sociopragmatic perspective, and finally, the cognitive perspective. All those perspectives have their merits, as we shall discuss in the following paragraphs. Let us then look at compounds from the structuralist angle.
According to the structuralist, compounds consist of at least two constituents. Each of those constituents contains at least one free lexical morpheme. Apple pie, for instance, consists of a head, “pie”, and a modifier, “apple”. The head establishes that we are talking about a pie while the modifier specifies the type of pie: it is a pie made of apples, not just any pie! Those modifiers are frequently uninflected modifiers, just as it is the case with “apple” in our example. Regarding pronunciation, it is worth noting that generally, the emphasis is on the stressed syllable of the modifier.
Frequency of use is what concerns the sociopragmatist most. How often is a compound used, and in which context? Does a majority of a speech community know and use the word, or is it merely used in academia? To answer those questions, MUMC´s five register table, as Schmid points out, is essential. Those five registers are: conversation, letters, fiction, reportage and academic. Compounds are rarely used in conversation and letters (Schmid 141). Thus, once a compound is frequently used in conversation and letters, chances are that this compound is already conventionalized. The reason is obvious: in everyday conversation, the first words that come to mind are uttered, which brings us to the cognitive approach.
The mental lexicon of the speaker is what the cognitive perspective is looking at. Schmid observed, that many endocentric (endocentric is defined in “Semantic Structure”) compounds consisting of two nouns (N + N) entered the speaker’s mental lexicon owing to their frequently self-explanatory nature. They are, he writes, firmly established, or entrenched, in a speaker´s mental lexicon. Being self-explanatory is, as we will see, a trait of many successful campaign compounds. The cognitive aspect is essential for campaign compounds, since once the voter enters the ballot box, it all comes down to what the voter associates with a candidate´s name.
Compounds with a “true modifier-head structure” such as “boatpeople”, “policeman” or “greenhouse” are known as determinative compounds, or endocentric compounds. Possessive compounds, or exocentric compounds, like “paperback”, “egghead” or “skinhead” still have this structure while it is less obvious. In the case of there being no modifier-structure, for instance in terms like “study-bedroom” or “French-Canadian”, the term copulative compound is used.
Typical versus non-typical compounds
Opinions differ on the narrowness of the definition of “compound”, let alone on “typical compounds”. The better read a person is, the more prolific their opinions become. If two true experts engaged in a conversation to come up with a joint definition, chances are they would be found to have three opinions on the matter. For the sake of brevity and clarity, we shall refrain from joining this discussion and stick to the typical compound as defined by Schmid. He regards determinative, and also to some extent possessive compounds, with chiefly nouns, but sometimes verbs, as head as being typical.
Furthermore, both derivation and syntax can be difficult to separate from compounding. For instance, is “watchmaker” a compound of “watch” and “maker” (maker in the sense of creator, as used in Ps. 146:6 (NIV) to refer to God as the “Maker of heaven and earth”), or did someone first conceive of the verb “to watchmake” before adding the suffix “er” to make it a noun? I would argue against derivation, since there is no entry of “to watchmake” in the OED. But I could not find any etymological explication for watchmaker there either, which makes my claim that watchmaker is a compound nothing but an educated guess.
Development of Complex Lexemes
Creation precedes consolidation, consolidation leads to establishment. At first, a new lexeme is created. Ad-hoc formations aim to reduce syntactic complexity, such as “Muslim ban” or “Travel ban” instead of
“Executive Order 13769: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” which will prohibit any individual – excluding individuals who get special permission to enter on a case-by-case basis – from entering the US from any country that does not meet the requirements of US Immigration law, namely, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days until airport security has been tightened.
“Travel ban”, then, is ambiguous and depends heavily on the context. If “Travel Ban” is used in the misleading context of “Muslim ban”, it sounds like religious profiling. If the context is “airport security” and “9/11” then “travel ban” becomes a matter of security.
The consolidation is the stabilization of one meaning, and if there were variants, of spelling. Trumpcare for instance, could be defined in three ways: first, Trump might use it as “Trump” plus “care”. That means he is so proud of this plan that he wants to it to be named after himself. Secondly, Ted Cruz used Trumpcare quite differently in the primary debates: he pointed out the similarities to Obamacare, arguing that Trump would not “repeal and replace” Obamacare, as he - like the other republican candidates - had promised; instead he merely changed the name tag. Thirdly, the “Urban Dictionary” defines Trumpcare as “a new healthcare insurance system where you automatically lose your health coverage if you are sick or poor.” The process of stabilization continues until one of those meanings, another meaning, or some sort of mix between those meanings becomes predominant.
Establishment is more difficult to define: from a structural perspective, a lexeme is established once it has its own formal properties and cannot be understood unless known. That is to say its components give insufficient information to a person ignorant of the lexeme (e.g. Saturday). The sociopragmatic view, however, is that a word known and used by a majority of a speech community is already established. Cognitively a word so entrenched in a speaker’s mental lexicon such that its meaning is instantly understood, is established. Regarding “campaign compounds”, the sociopragmatic and the cognitive perspective are of particular importance.
Nicknames are powerful. They tie information directly to a person, and once a nickname sticks, it sticks. That is why we must look at them, although they are, strictly speaking, not compounds. However, Trumpian nicknames, with their pattern of adjective + a person´s name, could be regarded as possessive compounds – as defined by Schmid: “possessive […] compounds mostly refer to people, less often to objects or plants, by profiling striking or typical characteristics”. That is exactly the intention of “Lyin` Ted”. “Lying”, the nickname suggests, is a characteristic of Ted Cruz.
Trump first branded Ted Cruz “Lyin` Ted” in the 11th Republican presidential debate on March 3, 2016 (Chambers). He then went on to launch a “Lyin` Ted”-ad and routinely hit “Lyin Ted” on alleged lies. Virtually all those accusation were, as Berrien´s article “Lyin´ Donald” points out, complete fabrications, but that mattered little. Cruz´s image of being a righteous politician was tarnished, his share of the vital evangelical vote he had built his entire campaign around declined, (Bruenig) and “Lyin` Ted” had brought Ted Cruz down.
In the same way, the Trumpian nicknames “Little Marco”, “Low-energy Jeb”, “Crazy Bernie” and “Crooked Hillary” attacked each candidate´s vulnerability: Marco Rubio´s inexperience; Jeb Bush’s apparent lack of zeal in the first republican presidential debate (which was in reality civility); Bernie Sanders’ far-fetched ideas of a left-wing socialism bordering communism (in the eyes of many Americans, at least); and Hillary Clinton’s corruption: her lies about the emails being “not classified”, her lies about Benghazi, and the extraordinary salaries and contributions to the Clinton Foundation she collected from Wall Street, Russia and Saudi Arabia. For instance, The New York Times reported that 500,000 USD were paid by Russians to the Clinton foundation “Amid Russian Uranium Deal” [sic], a deal Hillary Clinton was involved in as head of the State Department. She also received debate questions before debating Bernie Sanders (The Washington Times - Ernst) further fuelling the narrative of “Crooked Hillary”.
In his article “Donald Trump is terrible at nicknames”, Drew Salisbury argued that Trump’s habit of simply adding one adjective to a person’s name was terribly simple-minded and lacked creativity. Bush´s nicknames, he pointed out, were “Shakespearian” in comparison. Yet rhetoric is not measured by sophistication, but by effectiveness. Who has heard of one of Bushes nicknames? Virtually nobody. The Trumpian nicknames are well known by contrast, even today, almost a year later. 20% of the questioned students from Heidelberg – who are by no means representative of the US voting population for they are western, educated, intellectual, rich and democratic, or WEIRD –gave “Crooked Hillary”as one of their first three associations with the 2016 US election campaign when I asked them. None of them mentioned a single nickname Bush, or any other presidential candidate, had come up with.
Kate´s Law, Bad Hombres
Kate´s Law and Bad Hombres are really two sides of the same coin: the coin to build the wall and be tough on illegal immigration. Kate´s Law is named after Kate Steinle,1 a woman in her early thirties who was murdered by an illegal felon, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. Lopez-Sanchez had previously been convicted of six felonies and had been deported five times. Bill O`Reilly, the former “king of cable news”, routinely showed her picture on his influential “O´Reilly-Factor”, depicting the gruesome deed and proposing a mandatory minimum five-year-prison-sentence for any illegal immigrant who had been convicted of a felony and illegally re-entered the US after deportation. O´Reilly also invited Trump to several interviews, where he threw him softball questions concerning Kate´s Law. Concerning “Bad Hombres”, Trump coined this term, which had already been used in 1893 (Perlman - Columbia Journalism Review), by promising to swiftly deport illegal criminals: “one of my first actions will be to get all of the drug lords, all of the bad ones – we have some bad, bad people in this country […] we have some bad hombres here, and we’re gonna get ’em out”. In a flash of genius, Trump (respectively the aid who suggested this), combined the Spanish word for man “hombre”, to describe Spanish-speaking “drug lords” and “bad people”. If one takes into account that the Spanish language is disregarded by many Americans (Bush, Cruz, and Rubio where all vocally criticized for holding rallies in Spanish) it is no wonder that “Bad Hombres” was an instant hit.
Originating from Trump’s speech "I hear this is a major theme right here, Two Corinthians, 3:17” in front of a Christian audience in January 2016, saying “Two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians”, along with Trump’s refusal to ask God for forgiveness for his sins2 reveal a stunning disregard of the most basic concepts of Christian faith.3 A typical use of “Two Corinthians” amongst US Christians would be a dialogue along these lines: “Have you heard that Trump said he would stand with Christian schools?” – “That´s awesome! He really is the man to put the kingdom of God first [reference to Mt. 6:33 – KJV]! Two Corinthians, remember?” Possibly, “Two Corinthians” was a major factor in the decline of Evangelical vote with the frequency of church attendance: the more churchgoing, the less likely Evangelicals were to vote for Donald Trump in the primaries (for detailed statistics, see: The Washington Post – Layman).
1 The Name is also strikingly familiar to Katie´s Law, which facilitated DNA testing. In 2003, Katie Sepich was brutally raped, strangled to death and then bunt by the Mexican Gabriel Adrian Avila (Murderpedia – Blanco). But since this similarity was not mentioned in the public discourse, I only included it in this footnote.
2 “[T]he Republican presidential frontrunner said that he does not regret never asking God for forgiveness partially because he says he doesn't have much to apologize for. […] "I have great relationship with God.”” (Tani)
3 According to universally recognized Christian doctrine, God became man in Jesus Christ precisely to die for our sin, because “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 23:3 - KJV). Furthermore, 1. John 1 unequivocally states: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (KJV) So, while Trump claims to “have a great relationship with God” (Business Insider - Tani) despite not having done the very first thing God asks him to do, which is to acknowledge his sin and turn from it, God says in his living word, the bible, that Trump is, in fact, not only lying but also labelling God a liar. Consequently, God is not having any of “the great relationship” with Trump, as Revelation 21:8 condemns all liars to hell (unless they repent, ask for forgiveness and change their ways by starting to obey Jesus, of course): “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (KJV).